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‘Perfectionist’ Deone Bucannon working to pick up the mental aspect of the game

TEMPE, Ariz. — It’s clear the Arizona Cardinals expect a lot of Deone Bucannon, but even they may not expect as much out of him as he does.

“Deone’s only got one problem,” coach Bruce Arians said. “He’s so much of a perfectionist; he’s paralysis by analysis right now because he wants to do everything absolutely perfect.”

Arians said Tyrann Mathieu even went as far as to tell Bucannon to “just play” because no one can be perfect all the time. But that’s easier said than done for someone like Bucannon, who went from a three-star prospect who was not among the top 40 rated players at his position when he left high school to the 27th pick in the first-round when he left Washington State.

“I think any time you’re the number one pick there’s a certain amount of pressure that comes with it, now also you should have all the potential to handle that pressure,” the coach added. “Potential will get you killed sometimes. It’s going out and playing. So much of it’s language. The first month is just learning the language.”

And that’s just it.

While football is always going to be football, there is a significant change when going from college to the NFL — and it’s not just about the speed of the game or the talent of the players around you. The playbooks are bigger and more complex, the responsibilities often greater than what one is used to.

It can be tough to grasp, but that’s not so much of an issue as long as it is picked up at some point over the summer.

“A big mental jump, I feel like, is the biggest thing from college to the NFL,” Bucannon admitted. “But at the same time, if you put in that work and you use the resources that you have you can continue to get better and better each day. I’m not there yet, but I’m going to get there.”

Friday was just the first day in a weekend of rookie camps Bucannon is slated to participate in, and then next week there will be more mini-camps where he’ll be out on the field along with the more experienced players.

“Arguably the best in the league, if you look at it from top to bottom,” he said of his secondary mates. “Tyrann (Mathieu), (Antonio) Cromartie and Patrick Peterson, that alone you could say is the best in the league.”

It’s not only a talented defensive backfield, but also one that is teaching Bucannon a lot.

“Honestly, just the mental stuff. The mental aspect of the game, and focusing on the little things, that’s what they’ve gotten across to me,” he said. “The little things are the big things, and that’s what matters.

“I’m just trying to take as much information I can get and apply it on the field.”

It’s all part of Bucannon’s pursuit of perfection, which would lead him to his goal of having his name mentioned alongside Peterson, Cromartie and Mathieu as part of the league’s best secondary.

A first-team All-Pac-12 selection and first-team All-American as a senior, he is used to having success on the football field, at least on a personal level. He was tied for the Pac-12 lead with six interceptions last year, while also leading the conference with 114 total tackles.

But college accomplishments don’t mean much now that Bucannon is in the NFL competing with and against other NFL players.

“Like I’ve said since the first day, I want to earn the respect of my teammates, earn the respect of my coaches and get out there on the field and showcase my talent and show what I can do for this team,” he said. “That’s all I want to do. I want to help my team as much as possible each and every time I step on the field.

“I just want to make plays for the team and be the best player I can be.”